The offensive styles could not differ more Friday when the option-run heavy Marion Warriors matched up with Hillsboro and its spread system. Marion’s defense was up to the challenge, though, shutting the Trojans out in the second half.
“The way we play doesn’t fit real well with that, but our guys hung in there,” Marion head coach Grant Thierolf said.
The game began slowly until Hillsboro took a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter. After a Marion punt, the Trojans scored in two plays, the first being a 44-yard Justus Hilliard catch-and-run to the Marion 5-yard line, followed by an Evan Ollenburger catch for a touchdown on the next.
The Warriors responded on their next drive when quarterback Taylor Heidebrecht ran in from 15 yards out, but still trailed 7-6 after a missed extra point. A 41-yard run set by Caleb Williams set up Heidebrecht’s score.
After both teams traded punts, the Warriors caused the first turnover of the game when John Nordquist pressured Hillsboro quarterback Jesse Brown into an early throw, which was intercepted by Adam Janzen.
Janzen returned the ball to the 17-yard line, setting up himself for a 3-yard score with five minutes, 28 seconds left in the second quarter. Heidebrecht ran for the 2-point conversion, giving Marion a 14-7 lead.
Marion scored on the Trojans’ next possession when defensive lineman Nick Meyer picked off a screen pass, returning it 26 yards for a touchdown, the first of his high school career.
“It felt great,” Meyer said. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to catch it, but once I had it, I wasn’t going to let anybody stop me.”
Along with Meyer and Janzen, James Jones and Grif Case also recorded interceptions.
A fumbled snap on the first play of Hillsboro’s next possession set the Warriors up with the ball at the Trojan 17. Williams ran for a touchdown on the next play, giving Marion a 28-7 lead.
Hillsboro scored in under two minutes on its next possession, when Cody Delk caught a pass at the Marion 10-yard line, breaking a pair of tackles for a 20-yard score. The Trojans only trailed by 14 at the half, but would not score again.
It took until the end of the third quarter before the Warriors scored again, on a Heidebrecht run with 23 seconds left in the quarter.
Heidebrecht scored his third touchdown in the fourth, followed by Janzen’s second score late in regulation to give the Warriors a 48-14 win.
Brown finished 22-for-42 passing for 186 yards and two touchdowns. Delk caught 6 passes for 69 yards, and Hilliard caught 4 balls for 89 yards.
The Trojans play Halstead Thursday in the final regular season game. Meanwhile, Marion will play Moundridge.
A Hillsboro victory, combined with a Marion victory over Moundridge, could create a three-way tie for the second playoff spot in the district.
Janzen led all Marion rushers with 177 yards on 26 carries, followed by Heidebrecht with 82 yards on 16 runs. Zac Lewman recorded 2 fumble recoveries on the game.
Thierolf said the Warriors will focus on getting healthy and try to continue grinding out tough games.
“Style points don’t matter anymore,” he said. “It’s just a matter of being successful in games and outscoring people.”